Every cloud

You wait months for a post then two come along at once.
This post is meant to give a tiny bit of cheer to all those of us in the UK who are bewailing the recent election results.

(The word “Hallelujah!” even escaped a work colleague when I showed him this link.)

So, every cloud may indeed have a silver lining…. From the Register:

Biometric passport 2.0 scrapped alongside ID cards, NIR
Second-generation biometric passports will be scrapped alongside ID cards and the National Identity Register by the new Tory-LibDem government, probably as part of a merger between the LibDem Freedom Bill, and the Great Repeal Bill advocated by some sections of the Tory party.

******Breaking news*********
Oh, and this:

The new government plans to ban the controversial practice in schools of taking children’s fingerprints without their permission.

The decision is likely to mean a change in the law. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), as it stands the Data Protection Act allows schools to take pupil fingerprints without permission, prompting outrage from parents’ groups.

Taking security seriously

Authorities in Doncaster airport – aka Robin Hood Airport – have been acting in a way that might have given even the Sheriff of Nottingham pause. Or, at least, shown him how wonderfully easy controlling the peasants would have been if he’d just had the sense to wage The War on Outlawry.

An mildly jokey throw-away tweet line by a frustrated traveller has earned him a criminal record and cost him his job and just under a thousand pounds.

The offending tweet said:

Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!

Note that this was just a tweet, presumably meant to be read by people with enough knowledge of the English language to recognise the normal conversational use of figure of speech. It wasn’t a “threat” delivered to the airport. Obviously the tweeter never imagined that anyone connected with Robin Hood Airport would read it. Nor, guessed that EVEN THOUGH everyone involved on the airport side says they knew full well it wasn’t really a threat, that he would still end up destroyed by it.

Or have terrorists now got into the habit of casually tweeting their intentions?

In that case, the ruination of one ordinary man’s life is a small price to pay for winning the War on Terror. Or the War on Twitter.

Or the War on Photography, even. As, it seems the “potential terrorists” are still up to their old dastardly tricks of taking photographs of well known landmarks. So, it’s a great comfort to us all that the police are still on the ball and stopping professional photographers from getting shots of London buildings.

How thoughtful of the City of London police to keep us safe. Carrying on with the good work of Robin Hood airport. (When you find this post through a google search, Mr Hood, you’ll see how impressed we are with your vigilance. And clearly, you won’t detect any irony, as you don’t recognise figures of speech.)

If imaginary figures can turn in their graves, there’s a man wearing a green hoodie rotating at mach 1 somewhere in the residual bit of Sherwood Forest.

I’m a Photographer not a Terrorist

Spread the word – especially if you live in the UK. If you live elsewhere see if there are similar protests in your country. Visit Photographer Not a Terrorist.org to find out more.

They steal your soul

Police in Greater Manchester have been walking around with hand-held cameras filming parolees and “people they don’t like the look of” with the intention of putting video footage on Youtube.

How beautifully ironic that police in some parts of the country are arresting and dearresting people carrying cameras with intent to capture images, while their colleagues in other places are doing that exact thing as a supposedly powerful crime-fighting tool.

What is it about the magic of cameras? There is a probably mythological idea that certain tribes believed that photographs somehow stole your soul. Our society seems to hold to a contradictory belief that photographic images are at the same time both “terrifyingly dangerous” and “the solution to every social problem”. Which of these beliefs is the most obviously irrational? (Rhetorical question)

This reminds me of a post on the Register that showed pictures of Google Street View vehicles, taken by the people who were themselves featured on Google Street View taking the pictures on the Register. The Register suggested that

Surveillance feedback loops threaten fabric of time and space

Ugly word, ugly actions

A photographer was arrested for taking photographs in Kent – and apparently also for being tallish in a public place (according the Register, although this bit of the story may be apocryphal). Well, being tallish seems safer than looking a bit Brazilian.

Medway Eyes has links to several magazines and newspapers that discuss this infuriating story. (Eg, Henry Porter in the Guardian.)

The wrongness of this incident is self-evident. (For instance, let’s start with the misuse of anti-terror laws to harass people or with the de facto imposition of a requirement to show ID…..)

However, I’m getting soooo tired about banging on about the loss of civil liberties that I won’t bother here. Please take it as read.

Instead, I’m just going to whine about the word “de-arrested” According to Amateur Photography:

A spokesman for Kent Police confirmed this morning: ‘We can confirm that on Wednesday 8 July, at approximately 12.30pm, a man was arrested on Military Road, Chatham. After a short period of time the man was dearrested and no further action will be taken.’

“Dearrested”. It’s not a word.

I’m all for making up words on spec but surely any inventions should add something to the English language, not just make speech uglier, to no purpose.

What’s wrong with “freed”? Maybe “freed” was rejected because it carries a subliminal association with the concept of “freedom,” whereas “dearrested” just reminds you of “arrest.”

There’s a subtle suggestion that the condition of being arrested is the default state, with “dearrest” (sic, not “dearest”, please try to keep up) being the anomaly.

Obviously, being “dearrested” is infinitely preferable to being arrested. But, then, who’d have thought – ten years ago – that using your own camera in a public shopping street could lead to you getting arrested in the first place?

On 9th July, the Metropolitan Police issued guidelines to its police officers to point out that taking photographs was not a crime, but apparently the Home Office was not altogether behind that seemingly innocuous message. And it certainly doesn’t seem to have filtered through to the Medway towns.

In any case, if taking photographs is somehow a crime, how can anyone square that with the ubiquity of CCTV in Britain? There must be scarcely more than ten feet of public space that isn’t being photographed on a 24-hour -a-day basis. The Register pointed out a truly amazing statistic:

As if to underline Britain’s status as the West’s most monitored society, the BBC’s Freedom of Information requests showed that authorities on the Shetland Islands have more CCTV cameras than the San Francisco Police Department.

Respect for the dead

Funerals are obviously for the living. John Mortimer wouldn’t have welcomed his church funeral if he was alive to see it, but then – d’oh – he wouldn’t be having a funeral then, would he?

All the same, there seems something deeply disrespectful to the memory of a noted and outspoken atheist to have god-infused funeral. It’s as if – even though he notably failed to come up with a death-bed repentance of his unbelief – his mourners decided to do it on his behalf. Maybe this is how the myths about death-bed conversions get attached to the lives of unbelievers.

Sir John called himself an atheist for Christ,” the vicar said. “He always came to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But he emphatically did not believe in life after death. My hope,” she added, “is that he has had a wonderful surprise.”
John Mortimer’s atheism was one of his most cherished convictions. He loved to cross-examine an archbishop about God and find his evidence deficient.
Yet it was at the little medieval church of St Mary the Virgin, in Turville, near Henley-on-Thames, where his parents are buried, that Sir John’s family and friends gathered yesterday to sing The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, Is Ended at his funeral. (from the Times)

He went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve? He probably loved carols. Doesn’t everyone? He may have enjoyed a bit of traditional ritual. I’ve attended any number of rituals for belief systems that I don’t seriously entertain for a moment. I hope they don’t all start scrapping over my bones when I’ve gone.

I can’t see attendance at the odd Christmas service as justification for a metaphorical religious dancing on his grave.

The celebatheists site described Mortimer as

…an unbeliever who is very much sympathetic to the ethical and cultural aspects of Christianity. (From celebatheists.com)

I still don’t think that justifies a church funeral. Even in his 80s, John Mortimer was writing and campaigning about civil liberties.:

The latest novel, Rumpole and the Reign of Terror, concerns a Pakistani doctor accused of terrorist activities, giving Mortimer the chance to lay into what he sees as the erosion of civil liberties. And he is already engaged in formulating the next Rumpole plot, which will be about Asbos.
……. Now he’s on to the subject of identity cards.”One thing my father said was that if you find yourself in a country where you have to carry papers, you know it has a lousy government.” (from a Guardian interview in 2006)

If you were to find out that a Special John Mortimer Memorial Edition ID card had been issued, because Mortimer once complimented the design of a sample ID card, this would be no more startling than to find out that well-known atheist had been given a church funeral.

UK Liberty coalition – not before time

The forthcoming Convention on Modern Liberty gathering on 28 February will be a …. call to arms, to all parties, to resist the government’s attack on our liberties, rights and privacy. “(from Henry Porter in the Guardian)

Supported by the Guardian, Rowntree Trust,Liberty and Open democracy, a host of people, including well-known lawyers, writers and MPs from all parties, will discuss the way that

the patterns we see in the Coroners and Justice Bill, ID card laws and the Communications Data Bill (which will allow the government to seize and store every text message, email, phone call and internet connection) tell us that our democracy is under serious threat.

Woohoo. At last. Almost brings a tear to my eye to see a disparate range of people coming together to challenge the encroaching authoritarianism of our country.

There are events throughout the UK. Details on modernlibertynet It isn’t cheap to attend these but you can access news on a blog, facebook, twitter, and so on.